John Thrasher

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John Thrasher (February 24, 1818November 13, 1899) was the founder of the city of Norcross, Georgia, an original pioneer of Atlanta, and a well-travelled entrepreneur throughout the American Southeast.

Norcross, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Norcross is a city in Gwinnett County, Georgia, United States. The population as of the 2010 census was 9,116, while in 2017 the estimated population was 16,845. It is included in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metropolitan statistical area.


Founding of Atlanta

In 1839, Thrasher was hired to do work on the terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. His work crew lived in the area of what is now downtown Atlanta. During the construction Thrasher built homes for his workers and a general store. Nicknamed "Thrasherville" instead of its official name "Terminus" (given by the railroad), it was the first land development of the area. [1] A historical marker of this now stands on Marietta Street, in front of the State Bar of Georgia, just down from where the Philips Arena stands in present times.

Western and Atlantic Railroad railway line

The Western & Atlantic Railroad of the State of Georgia (W&A) is a government-owned railroad and is currently leased by CSX, which CSX operates in the Southeastern United States from Atlanta, Georgia, to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Downtown Atlanta District

Downtown Atlanta is the central business district of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The largest of the city's three commercial districts, it is the location of many corporate or regional headquarters; city, county, state and federal government facilities; Georgia State University; sporting venues; and most of Atlanta's tourist attractions. It measures approximately four square miles, and had 26,700 residents as of 2010. Similar to other central business districts in the United States, it has recently undergone a transformation that included the construction of new condos and lofts, renovation of historic buildings, and arrival of new residents and businesses.

General store rural or small town store

A general merchant store is a rural or small town store that carries a general line of merchandise. It carries a broad selection of merchandise, sometimes in a small space, where people from the town and surrounding rural areas come to purchase all their general goods. The store carries routine stock and obtains special orders from warehouses. It differs from a convenience store or corner shop in that it will be the main shop for the community rather than a convenient supplement.

Thrasher himself purchased a large amount of land in Whitehall which is now the site of West End, a neighborhood of Atlanta just southwest of the city center. This area was originally supposed to have been the zero-mile marker of the railroad and Thrasher expected enough traffic generated to bring business to the grocery store he built and to spur development on his land. In 1842, Lemuel P. Grant, a railroad employee, donated land just northeast of Whitehall to the railroad and the terminus was moved. Thrasher was so disgusted by this that he sold his land at a significant loss and moved to Griffin, Georgia. [2]

Griffin, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Griffin is a city in and the county seat of Spalding County, Georgia. It is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 23,643.

In 1844 Thrasher married and moved back to Atlanta opening another store on Peachtree Street. He became active in local politics and became a state legislator representing Fulton County. It wasn't until after the American Civil War and the destruction of Atlanta that he became deeply involved in Atlanta politics. He was instrumental in opening Atlanta's first jail, its first school, and its streetcars. [3]

Peachtree Street main street of Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Peachtree Street is one of several major streets running through the city of Atlanta. Beginning at Five Points in downtown Atlanta, it runs North through Midtown; a few blocks after entering into Buckhead, the name changes to Peachtree Road at Palisades Road. Much of the city's historic and noteworthy architecture is located along the street, and it is often used for annual parades,, as well as one-time parades celebrating events such as the 100th anniversary of Coca-Cola in 1986 and the Atlanta Braves' 1995 World Series victory.

Fulton County, Georgia County in the United States

Fulton County is a county in the north-central portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of 2017 estimates, the population was 1,041,423, making it the state's most populous county and its only one with over 1 million inhabitants. Its county seat is Atlanta, the state capital. Approximately 90% of the City of Atlanta is located within Fulton County. Fulton County is the principal county of the Atlanta metropolitan area.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Founding of Norcross

In 1870 Thrasher moved northeast of the city along the Richmond and Danville Railroad and founded the town of Norcross, named after Thrasher's good friend, Jonathan Norcross, the fourth mayor of Atlanta. He was also elected the city's first mayor. [4] Thrasher quickly turned Norcross into a vacation destination with a resort hotel he built. He was an active philanthropist in Norcross, a founder of First Baptist Church, a donor of houses to clergy and land for a park, now called Thrasher Park in downtown Norcross. A daily train ran between Norcross and Atlanta, perhaps the first commuter train in Georgia. [5]

Richmond and Danville Railroad

The Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D) Company was a railroad that operated independently from 1847 until 1894, first in the U.S. state of Virginia and later on 3,300 miles (5,300 km) of track in nine states.

Jonathan Norcross American mayor

Jonathan Norcross, was the fourth Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. He was dubbed the "Father of Atlanta" and "hard fighter of everything." - Henry W. Grady

Later life

In 1878 his wanderlust struck again and he moved to Central, South Carolina, where he built a restaurant on the train line that went from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. In the late 1880s, Thrasher and his wife followed his sons to Dade City, Florida, where he grew oranges. He never abandoned the railroads however, and was instrumental in bringing the railroads to that town. [6] He died in Dade City on Nov. 13, 1899. [7]

Central, South Carolina Town in South Carolina, United States

Central is a town in Pickens County, South Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,159, roughly 3,000 of which were considered permanent residents. Contrary to its name, it is not near the center of South Carolina. It received its name from its geographic location, being the halfway or central point between Atlanta and Charlotte along the former Atlanta and Richmond Air-Line Railway line. The primary campus of Southern Wesleyan University is located east of the downtown area.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Dade City, Florida City in Florida

Dade City is a city and the county seat of Pasco County, Florida, United States. It is located in the Tampa Bay Area. The population was 7,134 at the 2017 census.

Adding to Thrasher's legacy are Robert and George Woodruff, the great-grandsons of his first cousin, Caroline Thrasher. Robert Woodruff was a famous Atlanta philanthropist and CEO of Coca-Cola from 1923 to 1939.

John J. Thrasher's descendants have established the Thrasher Family Association, which holds an annual reunion and publishes a quarterly newsletter.

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  1. Paula Crouch, "Before Atlanta, before Terminus, It was Cousin's John Thrasherville," Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5 July 1987).
  2. Sumner, David E., Railroad Man: John J. Thrasher and the Early Years of Atlanta. David E. Sumner Papers, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Archives. Also available in John J. Thrasher Collection, Atlanta History Center.
  3. Pruett, Dorothy Sturgis, Our Thrasher Heritage. Published privately by the Thrasher Family Association (1986). Available at Emory University Library and University of Georgia Library.
  4. "The City of Atlanta," Harper's New Monthly Magazine 60 (December 1879): 31
  5. Francis, Allen Phillip, A Compilation of Fact and Legend Pertaining to The History of Norcross in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Norcross: Harper Printing Company (1967).
  6. "The City of Atlanta," Harper's New Monthly Magazine 60 (December 1879): 31
  7. "John Thrasher died in Florida," Atlanta Journal Constitution (14 Nov. 1899).